Thursday Open Thread

“An oath will encourage fidelity in office only to the degree that officeholders continue to believe that they cannot escape ultimate accountability for a breach of faith.”

–James L. Buckley

“Trumpcare 3.0” CBO Score Released: Another Bloodbath

UPDATE #2: Colorado Democrats weigh in via Denver7’s Blair Miller:

Two of Colorado’s Democratic members of the House, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, voted against the bill, and offered their critiques of the bill again following the CBO score.

“Congress should have found out what the bill did before they passed it,” Polis said. “The nonpartisan analysis reaffirms the danger of the Republican health care plan…It has every day consequences that could be the difference between wellness and sickness or even life and death.”

“The latest analysis from the Congressional Budget Office confirms how detrimental the Republicans’ health care bill is in terms of reducing coverage, reducing essential benefits and allowing for discrimination against those with preexisting conditions,” Perlmutter said.

Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver:

“Trumpcare is bad news for a lot of people, as the CBO has shown yet again,” DeGette said. “If this bill becomes law, it will ration care and put insurance companies back in charge. Millions of people will lose their coverage while the cost for others will go up – including those covered through employer plans. People can expect higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for skimpy coverage that in many cases won’t include essential services such as maternity care and treatment for mental health and substance abuse. And those over age 50 will pay even more – that is, if they can afford the age tax that this plan would impose.

“President Trump promised that no American would lose health insurance under his plan and that he wouldn’t cut Medicare or Medicaid. This bad bill breaks those promises and spells disaster for countless Americans.”

“The onus is now on the Senate to prevent this damage,” DeGette said. “It was dangerously irresponsible for House Republican leaders to ram this bill through the House for a vote with no CBO score. If Republicans really want to provide better health care for Americans, they should work with Democrats on making improvements to the ACA rather than dismantling or sabotaging it.”

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UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner says don’t sweat the CBO score, that’s just those wacky House crazies:

The CBO score is regarding the House legislation, and the Senate is currently working on its own legislation to rescue Coloradans from the collapsing healthcare law. Obamacare has driven up costs and made it harder for middle class families to find access to quality and affordable care. Anyone who looks at the current healthcare system will see that Obamacare is not working. The status-quo is unacceptable, and Democrats and Republicans have a responsibility to put politics aside and act.

Okay then! Let’s see Gardner come up with a bill that 1. doesn’t kill as many people and 2. can pass the House.

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Trumpcare 3.0

Moments ago, the Congressional Budget Office released its score of the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Trumpcare,” which passed the U.S. House before the score was released and is now laying heavy on the U.S. Senate.

Its effects can still be measured in, for lack of a better term, dead bodies:

CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have completed an estimate of the direct spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, as passed by the House of Representatives. CBO and JCT estimate that enacting that version of H.R. 1628 would reduce the cumulative federal deficit over the 2017-2026 period by $119 billion. That amount is $32 billion less than the estimated net savings for the version of H.R. 1628 that was posted on the website of the House Committee on Rules on March 22, 2017, incorporating manager’s amendments 4, 5, 24, and 25. (CBO issued a cost estimate for that earlier version of the legislation on March 23, 2017.)

In comparison with the estimates for the previous version of the act, under the House-passed act, the number of people with health insurance would, by CBO and JCT’s estimates, be slightly higher and average premiums for insurance purchased individually—that is, nongroup insurance—would be lower, in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs. In addition, the agencies expect that some people would use the tax credits authorized by the act to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks and that are not counted as insurance in this cost estimate…

CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under H.R. 1628 than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.

One of the biggest concerns over the newest version of this legislation is the option by states to waive coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act–allowing red states to dramatically change the rules for pre-existing conditions:

[T]he agencies estimate that about one-sixth of the population resides in areas in which the nongroup market would start to become unstable beginning in 2020. That instability would result from market responses to decisions by some states to waive two provisions of federal law, as would be permitted under H.R. 1628. One type of waiver would allow states to modify the requirements governing essential health benefits (EHBs), which set minimum standards for the benefits that insurance in the nongroup and small-group markets must cover. A second type of waiver would allow insurers to set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status if the person had not demonstrated continuous coverage; that is, the waiver would eliminate the requirement for what is termed community rating for premiums charged to such people.

You’ll recall that Rep. Mike Coffman, who trended toward support for this legislation right up until the vote, in the end voted no because of a “small percentage” of patients who he said could lose coverage for pre-existing conditions. As the CBO’s estimate shows, that “small percentage” could amount to millions of Americans.

All told, the new legislation is only slightly less harmful to Americans than the last version, and the negative effects are still plenty nightmarish to justify the overwhelming public opposition all polling is showing against the bill. Rep. Coffman may have dodged culpability in this latest version of “Trumpcare,” but most of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House including the other three Colorado Republicans are now saddled with this vote.

And for Sen. Cory Gardner, who is crafting the Senate version of this bill behind closed doors, the stakes just got even higher. Coming up with a plan that isn’t political suicide, but can manage to attract support from the hard-right House Republicans who just approved this disastrous bill, seems like a more impossible task than ever now.

Sen. Dominick Moreno Jumps Into CD-7 Race

Sen. Dominick Moreno.

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports, three Democratic state lawmakers are now in the hunt to succeed outgoing Rep. Ed Perlmutter in swing suburban CD-7:

Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City will announce his candidacy Wednesday for the 7th Congressional District post being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who is running for governor in 2018.

He joins fellow state Sen. Andy Kerr and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, both of Lakewood, in the contest.

Moreno, 32, is touting his legislative record as what sets him apart — noting the bills he carried to require breakfast for students at low-income schools in Colorado and his work this year in crafting a $26.8 billion state spending plan as a member of the powerful budget committee.

“I think I bring the strongest record for actually getting things done, and that goes for the Democrats and the Republicans,” he said in an interview ahead of the announcement.

Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City is a well-loved and respected progressive legislator, and the only one of the three contenders in the ÇD-7 primary to hail from Adams County. Moreno has nothing to lose by running for Congress in 2018, being an off-year for his Senate seat, so he can make the attempt without giving up his current office. Whatever the outcome, this race is a great chance to Moreno to build his name recognition for future upward mobility. And who knows? In a wide-open race, he might even go all the way.

Anybody else want in the CD-7 primary? The water appears to be fine.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 24)

By the time you finish reading this post, George Brauchler will have come up with another position on dealing with Colorado’s budget problems. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Congressional Budget Office is expected today to release its score of the latest House Republican version of Trumpcare. As the Washington Post explains, Senate Republicans are about to take the baton of stupid:

The Senate can begin health-care discussions in earnest today when it finally gets an official word from the Congressional Budget Office on how much money there is to work with on an overhaul of President Obama’s health-care law.

Remember that crazy roller-coaster ride a few weeks ago, as the House started and stopped…and stopped and started…and finally gained enough speed to pass its health-care measure (and, I might add, gave reporters the legislative equivalent of motion sickness)? Ever since then, senators have been waiting in line for their own wild ride to start.

But now the cars can start chugging down the tracks, when the CBO releases its anxiously anticipated and final estimate of how much the House’s American Health Care Act would cost and how many people it would cover…

…the Senate needs a CBO score for very practical reasons. Anything it wants to do regarding replacing the ACA hangs on this score. That’s because if Senate Republicans want to pass a health-care bill without any help from Democrats, they must use the budget bill currently housing the House health-care measure. Using the budget measure allows them to pass it with just a simple majority instead of the typical 60-vote threshold.

Here in Colorado, the health care spotlight now turns to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is among the Senate leaders tapped to come up with some sort of health care legislation of its own.

 

“Waffler Brauchler?” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is running for governor, and he’s already flip-flopping in a manner that would make “Both Ways” Bob Beauprez beam with pride. Within the span of 24 hours, Brauchler told the Colorado Independent that he both supported and opposed efforts by the Colorado legislature to re-classify the Hospital Provider Fee.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing legislation that seeks to end the “revolving door” of politicians becoming lobbyists on Capitol Hill. From the Colorado Statesman:

“This bill puts power back into the hands of the Coloradans I came here to represent,” Bennet said. “By banning members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill, we can begin to restore confidence in our national politics.”

Along with a lifetime ban, the legislation would increase congressional staff restrictions on lobbying from one year to six years, implement a 6-year ban on lobbyists from joining congressional or committee staff that they previously lobbied and create a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying efforts.

Results of a new poll, meanwhile, show that Americans are not enthusiastic about President Trump’s prospects for “draining the swamp” in Washington D.C.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

“Waffler Brauchler” Can’t Take The Heat

George Brauchler.

The Colorado Independent reports on the fallout from the passage this year of Senate Bill 17-267, the hard-fought compromise to save rural hospitals and give the state budget a small bit of breathing room through the reclassification of the state’s Hospital Provider Fee program to exempt it from revenue limits imposed by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Though the deal is done, among Republicans the finger-pointing continues:

In the days after the end of the latest legislative session, a narrative that emerged was one of bipartisanship and compromise.

But “compromise” can sometimes be a dirty word, especially when it comes to party primaries, plenty of which could take place in 2018. Some potential challenges follow a high-stakes deal lawmakers passed to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee so it is exempt from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, commonly known as TABOR…

Now, with the session over, election season soon begins. And one looming question will be whether TABOR hardliners will try to make those Republicans who voted for the plan pay for what they did.

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers, for one, has thrown down the gauntlet.

“As Rush Limbaugh said after Obamacare repeal passed, ‘there’s no reason to vote for Republicans,’ and that applies to the Colorado Republican Party as well,” CUT’s president, Greg Golyansky told The Colorado Independent.

We noted last week the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara’s bitter denunciation of Republicans who supported the Hospital Provider Fee fix, calling out GOP leadership by name and claiming the deal is the “largest ‘grand betrayal’ from Republicans I have ever witnessed in my more than 25 years in Colorado politics.” Much like the aftermath of 2005’s bipartisan Referendum C campaign to give the state a “time out” from TABOR limits, Caldara finds himself not just on the losing side, but at odds with elected GOP leadership in Colorado.

With that said, Caldara’s rage does appear to have tripped up at least one Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate, in a way eerily similar to how Referendum C caused terminal problems for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez in 2005-06:

One of the Republican candidates who said he would sign the law was Arapahoe County-area District Attorney George Brauchler. He would do it, he said that day, but grudgingly.

“I think the alternative is too devastating for the rural community and I think we’re sort of in a place now where we’ve got to take this the way it’s at,” he said. “My regret is that because of a lack of leadership and political pressure from an office that could have exerted both we’re at a place where we’re going to have to accept not the best outcome here. But I think we have to do it for rural Colorado and for that I support it.”

Post-Caldara freakout, George Brauchler has pulled a full-on “Both Ways Bob.”

UPDATE: Since this story was posted, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, who is running for governor as a Republican, said after thinking about it more he would not have signed the law. He said he believes it is unconstitutional. He said he would find the money to save rural hospitals elsewhere in the budget. He said he was a reluctant supporter at best on the day the compromise passed. “Certainly I’ve changed my position on signing it, but the distance between those positions isn’t that dramatic,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Wait a minute–the “distance” between taking action to prevent something “devastating for the rural community” and not taking that action…”isn’t that dramatic?” For the communities that could have seen their hospitals close, it would be pretty damned dramatic. Given what other Republicans have said about the urgency of the problem, like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Brauchler’s dismissal of his own flip-flop on the Hospital Provider Fee fix is nonsensical in the extreme.

And he’s given his primary opponents the perfect wedge — one that GOP primary voters have smelled before.

Television, Radio Ads Push Gardner to Dump Trumpcare

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is positioned to take a key role as Senate Republicans attempt to craft something plausible out of the steaming pile of crap health care legislation that the House narrowly passed earlier this month. As we noted on Monday, Gardner is saying lots of words about his perspective on Trumpcare (the “American Health Care Act,” or “AHCA”) though most of those words are little more than inane partisan talking points.

While Gardner may be avoiding talking specifics on health care, one local advocacy group is not wasting any time on the issue. The organization “Healthier Colorado” is spending $125,000 on two weeks worth of television and radio ads in an effort to convince Gardner to stay far away from the AHCA. The ads feature Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger delivering a message highlighting the negative effect Trumpcare could have on rural Colorado.

 

According to a press release:

“People across Colorado stand to lose under Trump’s health care plan, but rural communities would be hit the hardest,” said Monger. “I know that Sen. Gardner has stood up for rural Colorado on other issues, so we need to make sure he knows what’s at stake on this one.”

With the Medicaid expansion enacted under the Affordable Care Act, 87,000 rural Coloradans have gained health coverage, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Trump-endorsed American Health Care Act would end this coverage. The proposed Medicaid cuts in the bill would also put the bottom lines of rural hospitals in peril and slash access to addiction treatment at a time when opioid addiction is at crisis level in rural communities. Overall, the cuts would shift $14 billion in costs to the State of Colorado by 2030.

The “Healthier Colorado” ads are well-timed; the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release a new score on the impact of the AHCA on Wednesday.

Trump thanked for “giving up billionaire lifestyle” to “save the American people”

(With a straight face – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Donald Trump.

The Chaffee County Republicans posted a meme on their Facebook page this week featuring a photo of President Donald with the text, “TRUMP, the man that gave up his billionaire lifestyle to be humiliated and ridiculed and slandered in order to save the American people.”

“It’s good to see Donald Trump tearing down the established Old Guard Republican Party and calling out the Socialists that have hijacked the Democratic Party,” wrote the Chaffee Republicans in a comment above the meme.

Trump has been criticized for numerous actions, such as his request of former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired, to drop the FBI investigation of Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who later resigned.

But Trump’s highest profile critics haven’t been accused of slander.

A message left for the Chaffee GOP was not responded to.

The accusation of slander may be connected by the belief by some, like U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, that Trump has been the object of unfair media coverage. Buck stated recently that journalists are “inventing this Russia story.” However, there’s no evidence that Buck has asked journalists to correct their reporting on Russia. And technically, a newspaper would be subject to libel.

However, Trump has endured endless ridicule on late-night TV and elsewhere, with many, including Trump himself, suggesting that NBC’s Stephen Colbert is enjoying a ratings surge due to his skewering of Trump.

The strong support of Trump is a theme on the Chaffee GOP Facebook page. Another post reads:

The hysteria on the hard left should energizes us to stay involved and increase our efforts to take back America from the socialistic influence of the last 8 years!

Socialism is birthed in hatred and greed!

The United States of America is the strongest nation on earth, because it has had a united people, until recently! But we are getting dangerously close to Socialism, because a godless ideology has gained a stronghold in our educational system, the media and Hollywood, those tools are being used to persuade people that America is not great and to promote mistrust and hatred between races, between classes of people and a hatred toward the rule of law!

The goal is to divide America so that it will fail and then the one world crowd, the ruling elite can have full power over the masses! That is not good for our children and grandchildren, in fact it is the worst form of slavery!

George Brauchler Gets Schooled on SEO

For ordinary voters looking for more information about a candidate for office they hear about through word of mouth or see on the news, more often than not the first stop is Google. That’s one of the reasons why smart campaigns pay to make sure their content comes up at the top of search engines, as well as design their sites to be search-engine optimized (SEO). There is a whole industry of companies who specialize in this fine art.

Unfortunately, if you Google GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler’s name, his campaign website is nowhere to be found:

There are a couple of news stories about Brauchler running, and of course Brauchler’s infamous Twitter account–but not Brauchler’s own website. That’s a sure sign that nobody on his team has made it a priority. And trying some other search term combinations, it might not just be his campaign’s incompetence:

(more…)

Michael Dougherty Makes Three for A.G.

Michael Dougherty

As Joey Bunch writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette, Democrats now have three candidates for Attorney General in 2018:

“As attorney general, I will do what I have done for my entire career, fight for what is right,” Dougherty said in a statement. “Our attorney general should share the same values of everyday Coloradans, such as protecting our water, environment and public safety.

“The attorney General has to be above politics and do the right thing for all the people of Colorado. Consumer protection, public safety, and transparency of government are non-partisan issues and I plan to work with people from all across Colorado to make real progress.”

Before joining the DA’s office in Golden, Dougherty ran the criminal justice Section of the Attorney General’s Office, supervising special prosecutions, environmental crimes, financial fraud and the Peace Officer Standards and Training Unit, according to his website.

He also represented the office in hearings and meetings with the legislature. Before taking over the Criminal Justice Section, Before that, he supervised the the Colorado DNA Justice Review Project for the AG’s office.

State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) and University of Colorado Law Professor Phil Weiser have previously announced their intentions to seek the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in 2018. Incumbent Republican Cynthia Coffman continues to threaten to run for Governor, but she is more likely to run for a second term instead.

The Daily D’oh: Former CIA Chief Drops Anvil on Trump’s Head

There is so much breaking news lately on the ever-widening allegations about Russian ties to the Trump campaign that it can be difficult to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’ve created what we’re calling “The Daily D’oh!” to help you stay up-to-date on President Trump and the rest of the White House staff as more news emerges about Russia, James ComeyRobert Mueller, special investigations and everything else related to this ongoing crisis…

 

♦ D’OH!
Former CIA Director John Brennan testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee today. From the Washington Post:

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday that he personally warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service last year that Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election would backfire and damage the country’s relationship with the United States.

And here’s the New York Times:

As Russian hackers and propagandists tried to manipulate the American election last year, the C.I.A. noticed a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, said Tuesday.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan described a nerve-fraying few months as American authorities realized that the election was under attack and worried that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight. His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.

“I know what the Russians try to do. They try to suborn individual and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly,” Mr. Brennan said. When he left office in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

Mr. Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives and said the contacts might be benign. But his confirmation of those contacts was the latest revelation to undermine Mr. Trump’s changing account of his campaign’s links to Russia.

Gah! Er, D’oh!


♦ D’OH!
As Chris Cillizza outlines for CNN, Trump needs a new narrative on the Russia investigation:

And Brennan isn’t just some guy. He’s not only a former CIA director under the Obama administration, but also someone with decades of experience in the intelligence world.

This is not someone reading the papers or watching TV and making a snap judgment about Trump and the Russians. This is someone who was intimately familiar with the intelligence gathering regarding Russian attempts to meddle in the election. His voice matters more than most.

So when Brennan says the Russian efforts to “suborn” members of the Trump campaign “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” it makes it far more difficult for Trump and his senior aides to dismiss all of the questions about Russia’s involvement in the election as simply a media-created conspiracy.

Here’s the definition of “suborn.”


♦ D’OH!

Michael Flynn, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015

Evidence continues to mount that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn flat-out lied about his ties to foreign governments when he was being vetted for his security clearance. From CNN:

According to the Report of Investigation, which Rep. Elijah Cummings refers to in his letter to committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Flynn made false statements to investigators about who funded his foreign trips, including a 2015 trip to Russia where Flynn was paid roughly $45,000 to speak at an event in Moscow. According to the letter released Monday by Democrats on the committee, Flynn claimed that his trips were funded by “US companies.”

The report stated that Flynn said he “had not received any benefit from a foreign country.”

Flynn also claimed to investigators he had no substantial contacts with foreign government officials, saying he only had “insubstantial contact.”

Flynn was shown sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2015 dinner. [Pols emphasis]


♦ D’OH!
The Senate Intelligence Committee is considering taking stronger action to compel Flynn to cooperate with investigators, as Politico reports:

The Senate Intelligence Committee will likely take new actions Tuesday to force President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn to comply with a subpoena, Chairman Richard Burr said in an interview.

The committee served Flynn with a subpoena to compel him to turn over documents regarding his contacts with Russian officials, but Flynn has asserted his right not to incriminate himself. The committee is mulling compelling him to appear before the panel and perhaps subsequently holding Flynn in contempt of Congress, among other options designed to make him produce the documents.

 

♦ D’OH!
President Trump leaned on top intelligence officials to publicly downplay allegations that his campaign illegally coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election. From the Washington Post:

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.


♦ D’OH!

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain does not like where this story is heading.

 

Trump’s Budget Basically Calls For Killing Poor People

UPDATE #3: If you’re doing the math at home, 2+2=7.

—–

UPDATE #2: Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez is all smiles, kill the poor to stop terrorism:

As the House develops the budget resolution that will guide the FY18 appropriations process, I welcome the president’s input on federal spending priorities. Our country is at a critical junction, and the federal government cannot continue to spend money it doesn’t have. As terrorist groups continue to perpetrate evil acts and spread fear around the world, we must prioritize funding for national defense and diplomacy. It is also critical that we focus federal resources on programs that deliver results for Americans and create jobs, and we must ensure our social safety nets are sustainable for those who truly need them. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the budget and appropriations committees to ensure the priorities of the Third Congressional District are reflected in our budget blueprint and upcoming appropriations bills.

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver rips into Trump’s budget:

“The President’s heartless budget proposal amply shows his lack of concern for Americans’ health, financial struggles and hopes for a better life for their kids,” DeGette said. “It punishes the most vulnerable while propping up the wealthy and making preposterous assumptions about the country’s economic growth. And it guts funding for diplomacy and development at a time when we should be investing more in our country’s leadership in an unstable world – a short-sighted approach that will leave us weaker.”

Among the President Trump’s health-related changes that will harm the middle class and the poor are a $610 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, a steep reduction in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and a $7 billion decrease in the budget of the National Institutes of Health. The President’s proposal would slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31.4 percent and the State Department and related programs by 29 percent. It also eliminates Health and Human Services support for Planned Parenthood and funds for international family planning.

Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder:

This is a reckless budget that would weaken America.

President Trump’s budget not only goes against his campaign promise to protect Medicare and Social Security and ensure that no American would lose their health insurance, it does so while increasing deficit military spending even though we spend more than the next seven nations combined on our military already.

The budget is a clear statement of the President’s values. In it, special interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge tax cut at the expense of children, science, and our future.

In the 21st century, we need solutions that lift Americans up rather than knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the very foundations that make our country great.

—–

The New York Times reports on President Donald Trump’s budget proposal being released formally today in Washington–a budget nothing short of jaw-dropping for its massive cuts to basic safety net programs Americans have been backstopped by for generations, setting up the next battle royale and moral crisis for the Republican-controlled Congress:

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

Of course, the president does not actually write the budget–that’s the job of Congress, just like it’s the job of the state legislature in Colorado every year. To pass Trump’s budget as-is would be a very straightforward kind of political suicide for Republicans, locking in huge losses in 2018 that are already broadly feared. At the same time, the ideological far right is clamoring for such sweeping change, with no regard for the political consequences.

Although it sets up Trump to be loathed even more than his dismal approval ratings indicate today, we assume this budget is meant to be a negotiating position as opposed to a final proposal. By chipping away around the margins of these draconian proposed cuts, congressional Republicans get to “play savior” while still making cuts that will hurt a lot of people. It’s cynical politics, to be sure, but it’s also a clever way to obscure the blame.

Because there is going to be blame. Even a fraction of these cuts are doing to do harm that will a prove a major political liability for every lawmaker who votes yes. Much like the dogma-driven campaign to repeal Obamacare, a campaign that has outlived its political usefulness but can’t be stopped now for political reasons, the nation is now forced to examine the consequences of what Republicans have advocated for years.

And it’s scary stuff.

Tuesday Open Thread

“A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Republican gubernatorial candidate attacks likely opponent for “politicizing” PERA

(Dracula declares war on Kennebunkport! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

In an unusual development on the gubernatorial campaign trail last week, a Republican candidate has criticized a likely opponent for “politicizing” Colorado’s public pension program.

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to join the growing list of GOP gubernatorial candidates, has been highly critical of Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for years, saying, among other things, that the program’s growth forecasts are unrealistic thereby subject the state to a potentially catastrophic unfunded liability.

In terms of news media coverage over many years, Stapleton is defined by his criticism of PERA.

Often casting himself as a rare voice of reason in a sea of nonchalance about PERA, Stapleton has even said neither the PERA board nor state judges cannot make fair decisions about PERA because they are part of the state retirement program.

Analysts point out that Stapleton’s attachment to the PERA issue could be a political liability, simply because a large majority of people have no idea what PERA is, and many of those who do want it built up, not torn down, because public employees rely on it, not Social Security, for their retirement.

On the substantive PERA issues, in contrast to Stapleton’s drumbeat of crisis, Mitchell argued on air that PERA should be reformed, but there’s not a lot to worry about anytime soon.

MITCHELL: “It’s certainly a problem. I mean, we have — in the big picture, the fund has about $40 billion of assets. It’s paying out about two-and-a-half billion dollars a year in benefits. So, it’s fully funded for the next 30 years even with a 0% return. Obviously, it has never returned anywhere near that. But the benefits are, bottom-line, simply just too generous. We’re paying people 75 percent of their last three years’ average wages. And that should be changed to a 10 year average instead of a three year average. In addition, we have got to create incentives where people leave the state workforce, that it doesn’t create a burden on PERA.”

PERA backers say the fund is stable and will be able to provide benefits to all its members.

A coalition called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has crunched numbers showing how PERA’s stability has improved over the past decade.

Listen to Mitchell here:

 

 

Gardner Says Words About Healthcare Legislation

Cory Gardner’s teeth.

Today’s Denver Post features a long story about Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and his utterances on healthcare reform legislation in the Senate. The story, written by the Post’s Washington Bureau reporter, Mark Matthews, is basically just a vessel for Gardner to recite worthless platitudes — some more nonsensical than others – while generally treating the Yuma Senator with kid gloves. Let’s take a look.

Early in the story, Gardner fires off a bunch of nonsense about finding “something that can pass” and the need to “find a solution…that reduces the cost of care and increases the quality of care.” Of course, the House healthcare bill that passed earlier this month does absolutely none of these things; if Gardner has an explanation for these policy disparities, it isn’t included in the story.

The goal of Republican lawmakers is to shift patients, such as those added to Medicaid, to health insurance covered by the private sector. But Gardner said he wants to provide as much time as possible for these Medicaid patients to find new insurance — though he wouldn’t commit to a specific deadline when asked whether the 2020 date in the House bill was appropriate.

“We need to have a glide path that works for the states,” Gardner said.

Uh…what? Gardner supported gutting Medicaid when he was in the House of Representatives, but earlier this year he signed onto a letter with a handful of other Republican Senators in which he expressed concern that Trumpcare does not effectively protect the Medicaid expansion population (Mark Matthews even wrote a story about it for the Post). But instead of probing this question further, the Post just goes with a quote about a “glide path.”

…Gardner has said he likes how the Affordable Care Act allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 and also protections for patients with pre-existing conditions; a shield the House bill would lower by allowing states to get a waiver from that requirement for the individual market.

“We need to make sure the people with pre-existing conditions continue to have coverage and continue to have access to affordable coverage,” Gardner said…

…But make no mistake. Gardner wants to repeal the 2010 health care law — including its fines on citizens who don’t buy insurance and penalties on large businesses that don’t provide coverage.

Gardner says here that he wants to protect pre-existing conditions and preserve the idea that children can remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. If those benefits sound familiar, it’s because they already exist under Obamacare. “But make no mistake,” Gardner wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act!

Let’s move on…

How the Senate address health care could have long-range political repercussions for Gardner, who faces voters again in 2020.

For months, Gardner has been the target of liberal activists in Colorado who are angry about his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There’s been a steady presence of protesters at Gardner’s office in Denver, and health care was a major sticking point for activists who gathered earlier this year at a pseudo town hall meeting — complete with a cutout of the Colorado lawmaker.

Here the Post makes it a point to remind readers that outside groups staged a town-hall event with a cardboard cutout of Gardner – yet provides zero context as to why this would have occurred. There is literally no mention here of the fact that Gardner hasn’t held a town hall meeting with constituents in more than a year. That seems relevant, no?

The House was criticized for voting on its plan before getting a price tag from the Congressional Budget Office; Gardner said it was important but didn’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote.

“Obviously we want to turn it around quickly, and there are going to be other scores out there that will show us what the bill will do and it’s important to not just look at the CBO score. There will be other experts out there and other analysts out there will show their opinions as well,” he said.

This is one of the stranger parts of today’s story. Gardner apparently “won’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote,” but barring parliamentary rule changes, this isn’t a point of argument. As the Washington Post explained on May 4:

…members of the House voted on their bill before they received a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures how much the legislation would cost and how many people stand to lose coverage under it. Senate budget rules require a CBO score that proves the legislation will not increase the deficit after 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian can’t even start reviewing the AHCA without a score from the CBO, which is expected to take several weeks. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner obviously doesn’t think much of the CBO, which is a position he’s elaborated on in the past. The CBO is expected to present an analysis of Trumpcare 2.0 on Wednesday, and if the Senate is going to base its health care legislation on the House version, a CBO score is required by rule. This would be another good place in the story to elaborate on a conflicting statement from Gardner. Instead, we get this:

No matter what happens, however, health care is likely to remain at the forefront of issues for Gardner and his constituents.

Wow. People sure are interested in health care policy!

Senator Cory Gardner is going to play a significant role in crafting health care legislation in the U.S. Senate, but he doesn’t talk to his constituents and generally tries to avoid talking about the issue publicly – all of which calls for reporters to seek out serious answers. Instead, we get this worthless interview from the Post in which Gardner just talks in vague generalities.

Look, the point of this blog post isn’t to trash the Post or a specific reporter/editor. What we’re saying, really, is that this kind of story has no point. You’re not wrong to expect more from Colorado’s newspaper of record.

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